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Seeley Lake Transfer Site
is one of state's cleanest

Seeley Lake Transfer Site manager Dan Larson.

Cardboard and other items are accepted for recycling.

Extra fees apply for discarding old appliances.

December 9, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

story and photos
by Ken Wolff
for the Pathfinder


"Refuse," "waste stream," "garbage," "trash," "junk" - call it what you will, it pretty much means the same. And we all do some; collectively, way too much.

Opened in 1993, the Seeley Lake Solid Waste Management District Transfer Site has recently been called by state officials one of the finest, cleanest, most organized in Montana. One does not have to spend a whole lot of time there, up off Woodworth Road, to understand why.

Site Manager Dan Larson is primarily the reason why; directing customers, answering questions, cleaning up, keeping order at a comfortable pace. Over the years Larson has developed a wholesome rapport with the customers who bring their own garbage here. While this writer visited with Larson, as happens a few times annually, one could detect a sense of pride and respect for what goes on here, as Larson directed folks to empty containers, joked with them and answered their questions. Customers reflected an attitude of stewardship.

This is a taxing district, much like a school district or hospital district. All taxpayers in Missoula County School District #34 are assessed annually on their property tax bills for the operation of this site. Residents of the upper Swan Valley, Missoula County School District #33, may also use this site by paying an annual fee. Out-of-district customers may also pay a fee based on volume per load. Or you can contract with the local trash-hauling business, which has recently put on line a one-ton hauler to service those folks who live on the other side of bridges too weak for the big rigs, to have your garbage picked up on a regular schedule. The local garbage hauler also provides pickup service in the upper Swan.

Paul Torok is the chairman of the elected board of directors of the district. "We're trying hard to seek a partnership with a local civic group to help us with our Reuse program, whereas odds and ends of construction leftovers especially can be sorted and either sold or given away to be reused in some other project."

A lot of useable stuff ends up in the landfill, needlessly, and Torok would like to see some sort of partnership developed to reuse perfectly good things such as construction materials. If your local group can be of help please call Paul Torok at 677-2204.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - are tenets of this operation. The District encourages folks to Reduce the amount of one-time trash they initially purchase; packaging and plastics, extra boxes. And to Reuse what things we can. And to Recycle as much stuff as we can. The Seeley Lake Refuse District practices what it preaches as Torok showed up with a load while Larson was being interviewed for this article, sorting out things for recycling, reusing, and disposal.

Another project Torok mentioned his board is working on was a partnership with the Seeley Lake Fire Department, providing space for a new fire station that could possibly be built at or near the transfer site. Such a possible expansion of the fire department being a response to all the recent growth in the Woodworth and Salmon Lake areas.

The board of directors of the refuse district consists of three full time Seeley Lake area residents and two part time residents, elected by the residents of the district, which runs from Salmon Lake to the Summit.

Recycling is addressed as best they can at this time. All recyclables are to be sorted before taking them "to the dump." Accepted items include cardboard, non-ferrous metals (aluminum, brass, copper), batteries, automotive tires (a few at one time only), appliances (extra fees apply).

Seven containers, 40 cubic yards each, line the concrete unloading area, the concrete being last year's major undertaking. During fall and winter months an average of four containers per week are filled, some 160 cubic yards. During summer months this increases to as many as eight containers filled weekly, over 300 cubic yards of trash generated locally. Weekly. A recently purchased backhoe is used to compact the trash in the containers; this compaction saving the district several hundred dollars weekly in costs as the district in turn pays contractual fees to BFI based on volume. Filled containers are then hauled to the BFI regional landfill near Missoula.

The site has a drilled well for fire protection.

An article in the June 13, 1999 issue of PARADE MAGAZINE by Bernard Gavzer highlighted that the average American generates 4.4 pounds of garbage daily. The problem is, we're running out of ways to dispose of it. The annual production of municipal solid waste in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1960, with 217 million tons generated in 1997. Californians produce the most with 56 million tons generated in 1998. We produce more garbage than any other nation. Our landfills are overflowing and becoming toxic. Garbage in America consists of paper and paperboard, 38.6%; yard waste, 12.8%; food waste, 10.1%; plastics, 9.9%; metals, 7.7%; glass, 5.5%; wood, 5.3%; and other materials such as rubber, leather, textiles, etc. 10.1%.

Winter hours, October through May, are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Summer hours expand to 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. The phone number at the site is 677-3809. It is requested that all small children and pets be kept in vehicles while at the site, primarily for safety and liability concerns.

Woodworth Road turns east off Highway 83 about halfway around Salmon Lake, up a hill and around a few corners, then another left turn to the north at a sign, up a hill and around a couple of corners. And if you're lucky, you'll be greeted by an orange cat, one of two that recycle rodents at the site.

At this time no liquids are accepted for disposal. Water-based paints and finishes can be poured over straw or cat litter. The water will evaporate leaving a hardened mess that can be disposed of. Oil-based paints and finishes, motor oil, and anti-freeze, cannot be disposed of here.

For more information please contact Dan Larson at the site during business hours, 677-3809.

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